By the time Halloween 6 arrived in 1995, the horror genre had been in a prolonged slump, a slump brought on by inevitable audience burnout (so, so, so many damn slasher movies!) and the rise of home video (why buy a ticket for a crappy new sequel when you can rent the older, better sequels at home?). Jason and Freddy had both already had their cinematic swan songs (or so we thought), and Michael was next, starring in a totally bonkers movie which ties him to some kind of ancient cult and ultimately plays like Halloween meets Rosemary’s Baby.
Some dig 6’s attempt at explaining Michael’s power. The existence of a bootlegged producer’s cut which was only recently made legally available has certainly reinforced the narrative of 6 as some lost classic, a coulda-been-great little horror movie that was butchered by the idiot Weinsteins. I wouldn’t go that far.
Either way, 6 left things such a mess the franchise was almost doomed to a future of, at best, direct-to-video sequels.
1-3. Gather round to hear the tale of how Miramax/Dimension screwed over Danielle Harris and body shamed Marianne Hagan. Just think what might have been had New Line won the bid for the franchise rights.
Jamie Lloyd dies in Halloween 6, but she’s played by someone completely different (J.C. Brandy) who doesn’t really resemble Danielle Harris. However, don’t blame Brandy. She was a working actress happy to have a job and Harris bears no ill-will toward her. In fact, they’ve since become friends.
No, the real culprit here is Miramax and Dimension Films.
Let’s back up a minute.
The rights to the Halloween franchise actually expired shortly after the release of Halloween 5. John Carpenter teamed with New Line, which already had Freddy and would soon have Jason as well, to submit a bid; Moustapha Akkad partnered with Miramax/Dimension to submit a separate bid. The latter partnership won, presaging Miramax/Dimension’s late 90s rise as the king of horror. But, damn, we were so close to having Freddy, Jason and Michael in the same house:
Thanks to the ongoing Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal, Miramax’s name is mud right now, but back when Halloween 6 was being developed Disney had just purchased Miramax and its genre-leaning sub-label Dimension. Harvey was still a couple years away from campaigning Shakespeare in Love to a surprise Best Picture win, and his brother Bob’s love for horror movies was on the verge of paying huge dividends with 1996’s Scream. So, Halloween 6 was by no means them at the height of their powers in Hollywood, but they were close and many of the behaviors Harvey would become known for – bullying, taking movies away from directors and recutting them – were already in place.
Harris was perhaps the first to experience this on Halloween 6. As the film’s screenwriter (and Halloween superfan) Daniel Farrands told HalloweenMovies.com, “She was set to do the film until the final day of pre-production. It really came down to an issue of money. The studio (Dimension) did not want to pay Danielle more than she received in Halloween 4. They did not see her as a central character (although in my script she did not die until the final moments of the film). Consequently, Danielle decided, perhaps rightly, that she didn’t want to do the part under those conditions.”
It’s worse than that, though.
After Halloween 5, Harris and her family moved to Los Angeles so she could pursue more acting opportunities. While there, she spent her summers with the Akkads since she’d grown close with Moustapha’s kids while making her two Halloween movies. She would regularly ask when they were going to make the next Halloween movie, but when those questions went unanswered and the years moved on she kind of forgot about it, finding work elsewhere in various TV movies as well as films like Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead and The Last Boy Scout.
Then sometime in ‘94 or ‘95 a curious casting sheet came across her agent’s desk. Dimension had sent out a call for actresses over 18 who resembled Danielle Harris, even including Harris’ headshot of the time for reference, to play Jamie in a new Halloween. This was news to her. Shouldn’t she at least get a chance to audition? Why cast a Danielle Harris type when the real Danielle Harris is ready and willing to do the job?
Labor laws. That’s why.
Harris was only 17 at the time. They wanted someone older so they wouldn’t have to worry about the child labor laws which limit the number of hours a minor can work on set. When Moustapha interceded on her behalf, he was told the only way Dimension would even consider Harris is if she was emancipated from her parents which would legally allow them to treat her as an adult with no shooting restrictions. Actually pulling this off was not an easy process. It took multiple court appearances and thousands of dollars in legal fees, but she did it.
Then she finally got to see the script.
As Harris told Anchor Bay, “I remember everything started to change, like the way everyone was talking about ‘the new script,’ it just wasn’t…I remember leaving thinking, ‘Oh, these people don’t know Halloween. I don’t get it. Wait. I’m confused. So, I am pregnant with my uncle’s baby?’ I just didn’t understand what had happened. ‘Oh my God, this is not what I wanted to do. I don’t want [Jamie to] die like this’.”
History was oddly repeating itself. Ellie Cornell didn’t want her Halloween 4 final girl character, Rachel, to die so soon and so horribly in Halloween 5. So, she forced a slight re-write to tone down the death and successfully demanded a pay raise. But Cornell was an adult at that point; Harris was a 17-year-old girl with thousands of dollars in legal fees. Plus, she was facing the type of corporate bureaucracy and hostile environment Cornell never had to deal with on the more independently produced-Halloween 5. Harris’ request for at least enough money to help her break even went through a heartless business affairs division, which told her, “Your character is a scale character. You die in the first act. We’re not giving you any more money.”
And that was that. Even though 6’s writer as well as producer kept calling Harris to say they were going to make it right, she realized their hands were completely tied. After being put in her place by business affairs, she walked, on the advice of her representatives who assumed the studio would come back with a better offer. They never did.
It took Harris a while to get over it, telling Anchor Bay, “I went, ‘I guess I mean nothing to do you. OK. I just wanted to put the money back in the bank that I spent to do the movie, which you guys were trying to replace me on anyway and I fought for because I didn’t want to have someone else play Jamie […] People automatically assume I wanted some crazy amount of money, or something, [but] it’s not like I [was] demanding of anything, really… When you’ve been asked to do something and then they insult you by saying, ‘You’re a piece of shit, you die in the first act—I don’t give a fuck that you were in two other Halloween movies, who cares?’… I was in shock.”
It possibly worked out for the best, though. If Harris hadn’t been screwed over like that and her character hadn’t been killed off so disgracefully in 6 it’s highly likely Rob Zombie never would have thought of her to play Annie in his two Halloween movies. Also, since Harris does appear in 6 via archival footage from her earlier films that put the studio on the hook for having to pay her residuals. So, that’s something.
Plus, the actress (Marianne Hagan) they did cast to play the lead role (Kara Strode) in 6 didn’t exactly have a great time, admitting in 25 Years of Terror the Weinsteins let it be known she almost wasn’t cast because she was too thin and had a pointy chin. That might seem like a standard you’d-better-have-thick-skin-if-you-want-to-make-it-in-Hollywood story, or at least a sadly mild version of Harvey Weinstein’s sexism. However, it was enough to make Hagan self-conscious throughout filming (which is why Kara keeps covering her chin for no good reason), and it speaks to what became one of the most epic clusterfucks in horror movie production history.
4. For a hot minute, Quentin Tarantino was going to write the script and Scott Spiegel was going to direct
Or not. That’s long been the rumor, and it makes sense considering how close Tarantino was to the Weinsteins at the time thanks to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. However, in truth, Tarantino more acted as a go-between for the Weinsteins, Moustapha Akkad and Evil Dead II writer/Intruder director Scott Spiegel, who was offered the chance to re-write the script they had which featured Michael as a homeless man. If they liked his writing then maybe they’d let him direct. However, his preference (as well as Tarantino’s) was simply to start over and create something closer to the spirit of the first film. So, when the Weinsteins later told him Akkad wanted to go with someone else he was actually relieved. He was uncertain at that time if Tarantino was still connected to the project, but the film’s eventual screenwriter, Farrands, says on the producer’s cut Blu-Ray commentary that to his knowledge it was only ever Spiegel who was officially involved, not Tarantino.
5. They reshot a third of the film after test screening audiences didn’t like the ending
Farands’ goal was to bridge the gap between Halloween 1-2 and 4-5 by tying the explanation for 5’s Man in Black all the way back to the block Myers grew up on and the mental hospital he ended up in. What if both of those locations had secretly been overrun by a druid-like cult performing rituals and sacrifices linked to Samhain which granted Michael immortality and forced him into killing?
Sure. Cool. Whatever. Let’s go with that.
Except they didn’t. Not really. As detailed in 25 Years of Terror, 6’s producer Paul Freeman and director Joe Chappelle changed the script daily, often without warning or explanation. This left many in the cast and crew confused, and Freeman’s haphazard handling of the production, including sometimes sending crew home right before a crucial scene needed to be shot, resulted in a mess of a finished product. Dimension had to step in to take over production and force Freeman’s reworked material to be reshot.
That should have been that, but when a cut of the film was screened in New York the negative reaction to the ending convinced Dimension to order even more reshoots, this time without Donald Pleasence – who had passed away by that point and was replaced with a body double – or any input from Farrands. Akkad and Dimension eventually had a legal battle over which cut of the film to release, but Dimension won, pleasing no one and confusing audiences in the process.
6. The title Curse of Michael Myers was never meant to be taken seriously. The writer just made it up as a joke about their seemingly cursed production.
Farrands’ script was simply titled Halloween 666. There was no official subtitle. He later added The Curse of Michael Myers as an in-joke about their cursed production, but the producers didn’t get it. They liked the subtitle and ran with it.
7. There were so, so, so many different endings
Let’s just list them, as described by Farrands in his HalloweenMovies.com interview:
- Originally Loomis was going to be the surprise “twist” death at the end of the film. After the battle of all battles between Loomis and Dr. Wynn (a part I wrote for the amazing Christopher Lee), Wynn was dead and Michael was again missing. Loomis stops and asks, “Why not me, Michael?” At which point “the Shape” appears out of the darkness, slits Loomis’s throat with a huge SLASH of his knife.
- In another version, Loomis discovered that Kara was dead (in the bus station where Jamie had hidden the baby earlier in the film), only to find little Danny, bloody and catatonic, holding a knife .. and the baby.
- In another version, Wynn gets into a helicopter to escape the carnage at Smith’s Grove. He thinks he’s got the baby in his black satchel … and doesn’t realize ‘til it’s too late that Tommy has taken the baby and put a bomb in its place. The helicopter (and Wynn) go KABOOM as Tommy, Kara and the kids make their escape.
- Finally, they went with the “power of the runes” ending (which I jokingly refer to as “Tommy’s magic acorns”), the version that wound up in the Producer’s Cut. I didn’t mind having Loomis take on the “curse” … the implication that he would now become Michael’s protector rather than his destroyer was a great twist and, had Donald lived a while longer, I think that idea would have made a really interesting chapter in the series.
8. They did at least look for the original Tommy
The problem was Brian Andrews, who played Tommy in the first Halloween, didn’t have an agent. So, they couldn’t find him, either to offer him the part or at least throw him a bone in the form of some kind of cameo. His loss was Paul Rudd’s gain.
9. It’s technically Paul Rudd’s first movie
Let’s close on a positive note: Paul Rudd – Ant-Man-playing, oddly non-aging, Kansas City Royals-loving Paul Rudd. He’s the guy you instantly like without knowing exactly why. Halloween 6 was his second movie of ‘95, the first being Clueless. However, technically, he filmed Halloween 6 first. So, while the world and Alicia Silverstone first encountered his “kinda Baldwin” charm in Clueless the first film crew to witness it up close was the one working on Halloween 6.
For years, Rudd claimed he hated 6 and preferred not to talk about it. Now that he’s an Avenger he’s cool with it again, telling AICN:
When I first saw HALLOWEEN 6, I remember thinking, Oh God, this movie’s not good, and I was really kind of bummed out. In fact when we first started making it, I remember thinking, Oh, this is the one that’s going to be different! [laughs] I enjoyed making it; I thought it was really, really fun. But then I thought, Oh God, are people going to think I’m a joke? Am I ever going to get work as an actor after this comes out? I have since changed my tune; I love it. I’m honored to be part of a franchise that has lasted that long, that has that many devotees, and I couldn’t be happier that I can say that my first movie is a HALLOWEEN movie.
Rudd even tried to attend a couple of Halloween 6 20th anniversary reunion panels last year, but, ya know, Avenger, busy schedule and all that.
- BOX OFFICE: $15m domestic, half of which came in its opening weekend when it debuted at #2
- BUDGET: $5m
- CONTEXT: To be fair, 1995 was a terrible year for horror. The highest grossing scary movie was Species, which made $60m. The second highest-grossing was Demon Knight, which netted just $21m. And, hey, Halloween 6 did at least make $4m more than Halloween 5.
- INFLATION: At 2017 ticket prices, Halloween 6’s domestic total converts to $31m, which is Ouija: Origin of Evil ($35m), Underworld: Blood Wars ($30m) and Life (also $30m) territory for today’s horror movies.
Next time, I’ll look at what might have been had Jamie Lee Curtis not suddenly decided to come back for Halloween H20.
Any corrections or questions? Let me know in the comments.